I began to start my journey to learn Slovenian just over two years ago and I remember how overwhelming it was to find resources. Most apps did not have Slovene and finding a teacher while living in England wasn’t easy. Eventually, I found an amazing one, which you can read more about below. I definitely don’t claim to be an expert in language learning or to have any fluency in a second language. However, I have learned Spanish, Italian, and Slovenian while living in countries that spoke those languages so I do have some practical insight. Let’s dive in…
Slovenian or Slovene?
I’ve already used Slovene and Slovenian above. So which is it? Either!
Where is Slovenian spoken?
Primarily in Slovenia, a small country in central Europe surrounded by Austria, Italy, Croatia, and Hungary. It is also spoken by others in each of these countries along the borders. It is estimated that there are 2.5 million Slovenian speakers in the world.
Did you know….
Even though it is spoken by about 2.3 million people in Slovenia there are 46 different dialects. Some argue it is one of the most diverse Slavic languages in the world.
Below I will share some of my resources like dictionaries and translators, then language schools or courses, language learning apps, and share websites and blogs that are useful for the learning process.
If I personally used a resource I will provide my honest experience with it, but because resources are so limited for Slovene I wanted to share as much as possible. Just because a method did not work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else. This is the tough thing about learning languages. There is no one size fits all.
Dictionaries and Other Reference Materials
I will never forget the first week of my Slovenian course a few years ago when I came in all upset my homework was a mess. I claimed how is it possible for any of you to do this?! I was sitting there with my English-Slovene dictionary in hand and the other students look at me like I was from another planet. They were all using a dictionary app called PONS, and hot damn, life-changing. This is hands down the BEST dictionary for English-Slovene and I will challenge anyone who says otherwise. I use this app religiously on my phone and computer.
*Tip* Because this dictionary is so great you can enter a common word, for example, I searched jesti (to eat) and as you can see in the screenshot it gives me a few sentences with it in use. Because Slovenian can be so difficult with all of the cases I found this to be a great way to get phrases and then I save them on flashcards or in my notebook.
This suggestion might work best if you are in Slovenia but I will suggest just trying your local library or university library wherever you are. Often times they are part of networks that can get you books from other locations. Slovenian language books are really quite expensive. I recently joined my local library and they have a whole section for learning Slovenian.
Besana was a very valuable resource when I began learning Slovenian. Once on the site, you can enter a word, like the example given “hiša” (house), when you click “Pregibaj” the results will show you all of the forms of hiša for each case (sklon) for singular, dual, and plural.
This site uses computer voices for pronunciation. It isn’t nearly as great as hearing humans speaking but if you have no way to hear the words, this is helpful when just starting off.
A really cool site that is aiming to gather recordings for all the worlds in the world. There is a section for Slovene where you can hear real recordings of real locals pronouncing words. They have over 7000 words available!
Language Schools and Teachers
This is the most known school in Ljubljana and almost everyone I speak to who moves here attends a course, including myself. They have different courses for various levels and hours. I have mixed feelings because there was a lot of classwork and homework, BUT this course rocketed my language learning so I really hate to say bad things. Before this course, I could barely speak Slovene and afterward I finally able to converse with people.
(Disclaimer: If you use the link above for iTalki and take a lesson each of us will earn $10 in iTalki credits – at no additional cost to you)
When I first started dating my (current) husband I wanted to learn Slovenian to surprise him (oh boy was I in for a surprise) I found myself Googling Slovenian courses, apps, programs, anything I could get my hands on. This was one of the few sites, at the time, that offered one-on-one Skype lessons for Slovenian. I have been using it for over 2 years now as I try to have at least one lesson each week.
The very kind Bojana Petkovič invited me to see her school and tell me more about their services. Jezikovno Mesto offers a wide range of services whether you want to learn Slovenian, Italian, Czech, or more. Lessons can be done in English or a range of other languages. You can even take a short language program designed for travelers. In January 2019 there will be a new program for conversation Slovenian. I will be attending myself so I will post information as it becomes available.
This site provides some information about where to find language schools in Slovenia.
Listen & Learn is a company that offers language lessons across the UK and Ireland. I never used them or know of anyone who has but I thought it might be good for someone who wants face to face lessons.
I think this is one of the best apps for learning Slovene but others can argue there isn’t much competition. For some unknown reason – which I am still very annoyed about – they removed the option to select Slovenian as a language you can learn via the app so you will have to log into the website to add them. Something nice about Memrise is that there are user-submitted courses and there are a lot of them!
This is such an underrated app that even I slept on it. I had it downloaded to my phone for months but just really didn’t like how ugly the app looked and the way it was set up that I didn’t realize how GREAT it really is. This app, while ugly, is so incredibly useful. There is a phrasebook which has so many phrases and sentences broken down for certain situations and wait for it… WITH REAL AUDIO! Yes. Real people speaking these sentences, words, and phrases that you will need and you will use when speaking Slovene.
As if this wasn’t generous enough, there are vocabulary lists, games, flashcards, Google Translate right within the app, important info when traveling, links to other resources like radio stations when available. This app really has it all and I am looking forward to adding it to my toolkit.
You do have the ability to use different languages to help you learn Slovenian. It does not have to be English-Slovenian but you can choose from a wide range of languages.
*WARNING* There are ads if you use this app for free, and they can be a bit annoying. They have popups often asking you to purchase a language pack or all languages or other ads. It is only $2.99 for the Slovenian content if it bothers you.
uTalk is another app I have stumbled across that has a lot of great features for learning Slovenian. You can choose different categories such as business, holiday, living abroad, friends and family which are then broken down to even more specific categories.
Each category provides a phrase list with real recordings from native speakers (male and female) and several games to help learn or recall the new vocabulary and phrases. The other bonus is that it is easy to choose which language you want to learn from. You can learn Slovenian from German or Spanish, or basically any other language not just English.
Websites and Blogs
So now you have your phone packed with language apps and dictionaries but how do you navigate the notorious grammar of Slovenian?
Anna is simply the best human. She has a really great blog, Anna in Slovenia, and she shares tips on learning Slovene. Her articles are an absolute lifesaver, especially the ones discussing cases (skloni) and other aspects of grammar. This is because most texts for learning Slovene are completely without any English discussion of the grammar. This is what I found the most difficult in my process and Anna just does an awesome job, so thanks Anna!
I am still just discovering this app and only exploring the free options. I do like that it offers an exam at the beginning to help place you. Most language apps force you to start from the beginning. There is a lot of focus on repetition, which some might like and some not, but the sentences it offers are interesting and they have recordings with native speakers.
if you have started the process of finding Slovenian language resources then you probably have found this page. This site is run by the same people who run the main language school in Ljubljana and has recently had a major overhaul. It functions a lot like all of those Duolingo-like apps with photos and vocabulary. It also includes listening and writing. The current lessons available are only for beginners.
This is another site I never used prior to writing this but I really love that it has native pronunciations. This was one of the hardest things for me when I first started learning Slovenian because I couldn’t figure out how it should sound. Although overall it is limited, and the site is a bit difficult to navigate and lacks any substantial discussion on grammar, one of the more difficult parts of Slovene.
Each week Total Slovenia News takes an article from Časoris (a newspaper aimed at children) and republishes the articles with a translation. It is a great way to access new reading material regularly.
BaltoSlav is another new site that I found when researching for this article. If you click on the menu in the top right you can select between two games and then select the languages you want to use. I ran through each exercise with English and Slovene and I was learning new things so it is a fun easy way to learn new vocabulary.
I find myself on this site fairly often as I find some of the blog articles. There are some interesting ones about culture, grammar, and in general about Slovenia and Slovene. They do offer paid services for learning but I have no personal experience with it.
Similar to a lot of these other sites it contains vocabulary, phrases, and grammar. The grammar is very limited but it offers some context for adjectives, pronouns, verb tenses, etc but I saw no mention of cases.
Another site to show you all cases and forms of a word but much more in depth than any other option out there. Thank you to Center za slovenščino kot drugi in tuji jezik for the recommendation and addition to the list!
YouTube is one of my favorite resources, next to Wikipedia, for diving into a new topic. While there are not endless options, there are a lot of videos to help with learning Slovenian. Once again, because this is not a language most people are familiar with hearing, I find that using resources that include pronunciation is incredibly helpful. *Remember to search for both Slovenian and Slovene as there are different results for either*
I hope these resources were helpful for your language learning journey. Slovenian can be very challenging for those of us coming from non-Slavic languages, but I also find it very rewarding. Learning Slovenian can open the doors to other Slavic languages. On different occasions, either spoken or written, I was able to understand some Croatian, Serbian, Czech, and Russian because of learning Slovene.
If you have any additional resources you would love to share, please add them in the comments, and if you would like to read more language learning articles comment below.
Owner of wanderinghelene.com. Anthropologist, content creator, castle explorer, coffee drinker, and lover of markets and very old places!